Many times over the years since the project was launched to renovate the historic sheriff's residence that is part of the century old former Belmont County Jail, there have been comments made and overheard about the fuss over a dilapidated building, worn and torn by age and the elements.
Rather than save the structure, many thought it should be demolished, along with the jailhouse to which it is attached. "It's deteriorating and a shambles"; "It's ready to collapse" were some of the comments repeated over and over.
One thing is certain. That residence would never collapse. In fact, it is probably one of the sturdiest homes ever built. It's almost like a fortress.
It is brick wall on the outside and brick walls on the inside. Most of the walls that separate the rooms on the first floor are not typical paneling or some type of plasterboard that is attached to supporting wooden 2 by 4 studs - they're solid brick walls.
"Don't try to put your fist through one of these walls," chuckled Jeff Prager, manager of the project for Waller Corp. of Washington, Pa., as he took me on a brief tour of the main floor where workers were busy doing their renovating work.
"Almost every wall is brick construction. They're solid," Prager noted in a somewhat surprised voice as he showed me a doorway area where the brick was exposed. A layer of plaster about an inch thick covers the bricks. The few walls that are not brick are of lathe and plaster construction.
So the walls won't be replaced. Prager said what will happen is the thick plaster will be cleaned and a plaster coating applied to smooth out the walls.
In one of the rooms there was a strange contraption. "Ever seen a boot warmer?" Prager asked. It was attached to a radiator and had small compartments where boots, shoes or whatever could be placed to heat them.
It's going to remain a fixture when the overall project is completed. "That's going to stay right where it is," Prager stressed. "You don't see those around today."
Overall, Prager said the residence is in good shape. "Even the roof is not as bad as people thought. We'll be starting on repairing the roof next week. Only about 25 percent of the slates will have to be replaced."
Waller Corp. was the lowest bidder at $720,200 on the renovation project which is being completed with a $679,000 enhancement grant received from the Ohio Department of Transportation and $150,000 received from the Belmont County Tourism Council to match the state grant.
"We've got many (road) slips and zero money to repair them."
That's how Belmont County Deputy Engineer Mike Wahl pinpointed the critical situation facing the county's engineering department.
One major project the county may soon be facing is a slip on County Road 56, better known as Maynard Road, a little over a mile west of the community. Johnny Waugh of Blainesville brought the commission's attention to the slip, which is marked with yellow barrels that narrow the road to one lane for a short district.
Since Wahl was there on another matter, Commission President Chuck Probst asked on what it would take to repair the slip. Wahl was there to get the commission's approval of an agreement for repairing county roads and bridges that may be damaged by a drilling company.
Whal indicated it would be a major project that could not be undertaken by the engineering department. "We don't have the equipment," Wahl declared, pointing out the slip is on a very steep hillside and would require special equipment be brought in to repair. But Wahl said as soon as the meeting was concluded he would visit the scene for a closer study.
The agreement Whal was seeking was approved. It allows the G&L Drilling, LLC to move overweight equipment over County Road 122 - Slabtown Road - and it requires the company to post a $100,000 bond to cover the cost of repairing damage that may be caused to roads and bridges.
Even though his enthusiasm has been diminished somewhat because of two tragic losses suffered within the past 16 months, Bill "Red" Doleski hasn't lost his gardening skills as he produced a ripe red tomato more than week prior to the Memorial Day holiday. "I have one red tomato and three others that are almost red," he uttered softly as he recalled the words of his late wife, Anna, cautioning him not to make a garden this year. That advice came only a short time before she passed away in February. About a year earlier he lost his daughter, Deborah Allen.
"I had to start a garden. I couldn't stay in the house all the time and do nothing. So I'm up and out in the garden every morning by 7 o'clock. It keeps me and my mind busy."
Doleski altered his routine somewhat this year. Usually I go down to Lansing to check out his garden. But last Wednesday I got a surprise. He drove out to visit me and check on my garden. And I'll have to admit he was impressed, even though there were no red or even green tomatoes to show him.
My lettuce crop especially impressed him because his did not turn out too well. So as a parting gesture I gave him a small bag of it to take home. He was a bit surprised that my garden has only seven tomato plants rather than a dozen or more as in previous years. Good reason. Tomatoes, as well as potatoes, bananas and a lot of other foods are high in potassium and my body is missing one kidney, so those foods are no longer popular items on my menu. I have more pepper plants that I hope produce the nice, big red ones like those that cost over $1 each in food markets.
Doleski has many friends and admirers on both sides of the Ohio River and rightfully so. On Thursday he will be celebrating his 94th birthday, so if a few of those friends could take a minute to send him a card, I know he'd appreciate it and it would lift his spirits. His address is: 54930 Lorain Ave., Bridgeport, OH 43912.
About the same time as I received word from Doleski about his tomato, I found out James Kacsmar of St. Clairsville also is feasting on ripe tomatoes. Kacsmar gets a jump on most gardeners because he transforms his garage into a kind of hot house where he grows the plants from an early stage in April until the weather is warm enough to plant them outdoors.
Veterans of World War II, and the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq will have a role in the Memorial Day service to be held jointly by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5356 and American Legion Post 159 on Monday at 10:30 a.m. in Union Cemetery in St. Clairsville to pay tribute to those who have served and those who gave their lives in service to this country.
Kevin West of Bellaire, a veteran of the first Gulf War, will be the guest speaker and the St. Clairsille High School band will provide musical selections. The honor guard for the rifle salute concluding the service will include: R.L. Leonard and Pete Sloan, WWII veterans; Roy Mazzer, Korean War veteran; Mike Pollack, Tom Dziatkowicz, Shorty Wehr, Joe Barker, Bill Simmons, Rick Johnson, Barry Larson, Bill DeNard, John DeBonis, Jeff Andrely and Bob Farmer, all Vietnam War veterans and Lacey Shanks, veteran of the Iraq War.
"Lest We Forget" is an appropriate identity for a huge collection of World War II memorabilia ranging from uniforms to weaponry used in that conflict that is on display at the Ohio Valley Mall. For the 17th year, Tony Ankrom of Proctor, W.Va. has brought his collection to display on Memorial Day. Today is the last day it will be displayed.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.